In an era where the urban population spends a significant part of the day in dealing with traffic, public buses come as a relief – not having to drive through the stubborn roads ourselves. And now when smart cities are improving public transportation with electrification and automation, the number of passengers is constantly increasing.
In fact, the latest report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) shows that cities will have more electric buses on the roads than electric cars in the coming years. It also estimates that electric buses in almost all charging configurations will have a reduced cost of ownership compared to the regular buses by 2019.
Let us travel through some of the smart cities around the globe, that are making this prediction true!
Northern France Introduces First-of-its-kind BRT System
Amiens in Northern France has introduced an innovative fleet of 43 electric buses in the city. The buses are running on three out of four Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) routes which are called ‘Nemo’. These four bus routes are identified as the backbone of the public transport network in Amiens. As a result, the buses will operate in major locations including hospital complex, university campus, residential neighbourhoods, and leisure facilities.
As per the public transport operator Keolis that is operating the service on behalf of Amiens Métropole, the BRT system is the one of its kind in France and plays an important role in achieving a principal milestone in electro-mobility.
Amiens Métropole and Keolis anticipate that this new launch will increase the number of passengers over the next half decade by 28%.
These electric buses are manufactured by Spanish company Irizar. Each bus has a seating capacity up to 151 passengers. Thanks to technology, they are environmentally friendly, cost-effective, smooth and noise-free on the road.
The e-buses have a unique charging system which provides a quick charge option in the bus terminal enabling to finish refuelling your devices within a matter of 4-5 minutes when running on the road. While at the bus station, a slower charging option is given at night which takes 3-4 hours for 100% capacity. This is something first time being witnessed in the whole of Europe.
To keep up with the management and maintenance of the electric buses and to upgrade the skill sets of the people, Keolis has executed a training plan for over 300 drivers as well as employees working at the central control station.
In addition, new certified operations and maintenance centre HEQ has been established to house up to 155 buses on the outskirts of the city.
In order to support the new transport facility, a new ticketing system with post-payment option will be introduced. This will help in making the journey more affordable with a new inclusive fee system that will be subject to passenger’s income.
World’s First Ever Hydrogen-powered Doubledecker Buses
World’s first Hydrogen-powered doubledecker bus fleet is about to hit the roads of London next year. This is Mayor Sadiq Khan’s endeavour in alleviating the city’s polluted air and which will also improve the passenger experience.
The initiative is in line with the introduction of the city’s ultra-low emission zone where the most polluting buses and vehicles are charged £100-a-day to drive.
The hydrogen-powered buses will be 100% eco-friendly as they will run on green hydrogen supplied by North Kent offshore wind farms and emit water as the only exhaust, as stated by Transport for London (TfL).
As of now, 20 buses have been ordered by TfL with each costing approximately £500,000. The total cost of the fleet considering the refuelling infrastructure is said to be £12m. Out of this, £5m will come from European funding.
The buses will be manufactured by Wrightbus in Northern Ireland, in the UK that also produced the New Routemaster buses launched in 2012-13.
Single-decker bus fleet is already operating in central London and in Aberdeen and Brighton. But this is the first time in the world that double-decker buses will run on green energy.
For enhanced passenger experience, the buses will have USB charging points while ensuring a smoother and calmer ride. Another benefit that comes from the buses is quick refuelling capability than standard battery-powered vehicles that are known to have certain downsides. The buses will need just five-minute refill in a day and will be able to run on long routes.
The fleet will run on three routes in west London and to Wembley that reached 10 million passenger journeys the previous year.
According to Claire Mann, TfL’s director of bus operation, hydrogen provides greater flexibility. The buses will act towards improving both the environment and public health.
The Electric Bus Story of Argentina
The Latin American country, Argentina will too have its own fully electric bus fleet that will operate across the Chilean border and to its final destination in the City of Mendoza, by the end of this year.
The country where the BRT system is managed by the federal government has already witnessed environmentally-friendly strides in Buenos Aires where the system was significantly improved for 60% of the citizens that rely on public transportation.
Coming to the new initiative, the buses will hit the roads after being inspected for multipoint delivery. This is a standard procedure for fleets which is carried out after issuance of receipt of new vehicles. The project led by STM is being supported by Argentina-based bus company Andesmar and the automotive company BYD.
The new bus fleet will contribute to the reduction of cost of operation, emissions and noise pollution. It will soon replace the conventional noisy buses currently operating in the country. Moreover, it will not only enhance the quality of life for the residents but will also serve the passengers with a multitude of new technologies.
The buses will be powered by non-toxic, fireproof lithium iron phosphate batteries that are thermally stable compared to lithium-ion batteries that easily catch fire. Besides, it is worth noting that these batteries are rechargeable in a matter of minutes or even seconds.
Which Country Has The Largest Operating Electric Bus Fleet And Why?
It is understood that the deployment of the electric bus fleet and related infrastructure will help in significantly reducing carbon footprint in smart cities around the world. But this is not happening until a huge number of e-buses hit the roads. Now the question arises that when will cities reach that green number?
If we look at the number of electric buses operating in China, the statistics shockingly reveal that the rest of the world will take years to match the rapid advancement.
China has nearly 421,000 e-buses out of 425,000 e-buses operating in the world. When the global e-bus fleet increased by about 32% in 2018, the majority was due to the e-buses hitting the roads of China. While Europe has only 2,250 e-buses, as per Bloomberg NEF.
BNEF also reports that China’s public e-bus fleet is expected to grow over 600,000 by 2025 when the US is anticipated to have 5,000.
The rapid e-bus expansion in China is all due to its implementation policy. The country is embracing a top-down approach to its vehicle electrification includes focussing on the establishment of national mandates, subsidising manufacturers, and sustaining policy competition among its cities. Electric public transportation network was introduced in China with support from government policy.
Hopefully, other smart cities and countries could catalyse progress by learning from the Chinese strategy.